Who Gets Pet Custody in a Tennessee Divorce?

Divorce is a complex and emotionally charged process. When pets are involved, it can become even more challenging. In the state of Tennessee, pets are legally classified as "property," not "children." 

Therefore, the laws surrounding pet custody in divorce cases differ significantly from those governing child custody. This blog will delve into the nuances of pet ownership during a divorce, offering valuable insights and practical tips for navigating this challenging terrain. 

Pets: Community vs. Separate Assets?  

In Tennessee, as in most states, pets are technically considered personal property under divorce laws. This means that in the eyes of the law, pets are treated similarly to other assets like cars or houses. 

Tennessee is an equitable distribution state. During the property division process, the distinction between community property and separate property is important. Community property includes assets and debts that a couple acquires during the marriage, while separate property refers to anything that either spouse owned individually before the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage. 

Thus, an important factor in determining who gets to keep a pet following your divorce is when you acquired them. Pets acquired before the marriage will generally be considered separate property.  

Factors Influencing Pet Custody Outcomes 

If a pet is marital property, several factors can influence the outcome of a pet custody battle in a divorce. These often include: 

  • Proof of ownership. Receipts, adoption papers, or registration documents can help establish who originally purchased or adopted the pet. 

  • Care arrangements. Evidence of who has been primarily responsible for the pet's day-to-day care, such as feeding, grooming, walking, and veterinary visits, can be influential. 

  • Financial responsibilities. The ability to cover the costs associated with pet ownership, including food, grooming, and veterinary care, can also play a role in custody decisions. 

  • Living situations. The living conditions at each party's home, including whether there is enough space for the pet and if it's a suitable environment, can impact the decision.  

Tips for Divorcing Pet Owners 

Navigating pet custody during a divorce can be stressful, but there are ways to make the process smoother: 

  • Consider mediation. A neutral third-party mediator can help facilitate discussions about pet custody, ensuring that all parties' voices are heard. 

  • Think about what’s best for your pet. Just like with children, consider what is truly best for your pet. Who can provide the most stable home? Who has more time to spend with the pet? 

  • Document everything. Keep records of everything related to your pet's care. This could be crucial if the court needs to decide on custody. 

  • Consult an attorney. If you're unsure about any aspect of pet custody during your divorce, consult with a lawyer who specializes in family law and understands the nuance of property division cases. 

Experienced Legal Counsel  

At Conner & Roberts, PLLC, our attorneys have decades of collective experience, and we are prepared to help pet owners navigate the property division and divorce process. Call (423) 299-4489 or reach out to us online to schedule a consultation.  

Related Posts
  • How to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce Read More
  • Common Reasons to Modify a Child Custody Agreement Read More
  • How to Restart Your Career After Divorce Read More